Justin Smith diagnosed at 19

In the fall of 1999, I arrived at Assumption College, excited to start my freshman year. I loved college life and quickly got involved with student activities.

Near the end of the first semester, I started to develop strange symptoms. I was constantly congested, having night sweats rather frequently, and despite eating like a college student, I was losing a lot of weight. I look back now and realize that my body was signaling that something was wrong, but at the time, I blamed the symptoms on communal living and stress from my classes.

The congestion continued, and by the spring semester, I began to develop lumps in my neck. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with “bad” asthma. Even though I had been prone to respiratory illness my whole life, this was different. I couldn’t get through the day without using a nebulizer several times. The diagnosis didn’t seem right. By May, my symptoms worsened, and I visited the college nurse. I credit her with saving my life. She wouldn’t let me wait, she sent me to the ER immediately. There, blood work and x-rays revealed that I had Hodgkin lymphoma.

Thankfully my cancer was caught at stage II, but if I had been diagnosed in December, after my symptoms started, I may have avoided painful chemotherapy and radiation or it would have been a much shorter course of treatment. I am grateful to the doctors and nurses who returned me to good health.


  • constantly congested
  • night sweats
  • weight loss
  • lumps in neck

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